Sober October Blog

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This blog is a fictionalised account based on the experiences of a number of different Chichester Wellbeing clients that we have worked with in the last year.

It aims to give people an idea of a typical journey for someone reducing their alcohol intake, and the types of benefits they experience.

Blog 7 - Temptation (free cheese is always available in mouse traps) – Monday 26th October

Some days it just seems too hard, why bother, why not take the path of least resistance, to accept I like a drink and so I should just drink, it’s easy. So let’s go to the fridge and open a beer, except past Me, me when I was fully engaged with reducing my alcohol intake, has not restocked the fridge.  In fact there’s no alcohol in the house other than the weird spirits shelf that no one touches. (What even is vermouth?) Interesting point that I never crave this form of alcohol it just doesn’t register with me as a viable option, perhaps this shows that for me alcohol is deeply tied in with memories and social occasions. I don’t really want a drink I just want to replicate the memories of times when I felt better. So thanks to past me, I now can’t instantly respond to my cravings, thanks past Me good job.

I can now have that breathing space to reflect that I don’t need a drink what I need is to change my mood. I’m after a release from feeling claustrophobic and trapped and over stretched. So what I really need to do is put on my trainers and go out for a walk (maybe even, dare I say it, a run…) to clear my head and refresh myself.

And this is where it helps to have planned in advance for these dips in mood. It’s only natural for us to have ebbs and flows in our emotional state. Sometimes we will be really vulnerable to poor decision making, but don’t make it too easy for us to instantly respond to our cravings. Keeping alcohol out of sight, avoid that trigger. There’s a reason supermarkets push certain products by having them displayed at eye level, do the same in your own home, the old adage of out of sight out of mind. If you only like drinking cold white wine, keep it out of the fridge, that way it’s not always available to you, you have to plan to drink it. There are numerous ways to delay that instant gratification we can all fall victim to. 

Basically, we need to anticipate and plan ahead. Make it easier for your future self, so that when it comes down to those tough decisions you have that breathing space, time to weigh your options and ask yourself what is it that you’re really seeking.

Stay sober. Control the wine. Save the liver

This blog is a fictionalised account based on the experiences of a number of different Chichester Wellbeing clients that we have worked with in the last year.

It aims to give people an idea of a typical journey for someone reducing their alcohol intake, and the types of benefits they experience.

 

Blog 6 - Failure: “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it” Churchill, Sanataya, Me - Wednesday 21st October

It’s all gone wrong, belly up, , boozed up. Best laid plans and all that, last week my units were on the up rather than the down. Pressure at work, stressed partners and a feeling I deserved a drink for all my hard work the previous weeks. And now I feel terrible, failure is hard and I’m not used to it, in fact I often avoid doing things that are likely to result in failure, I hate it that much. So is that it? The end of the road for me, should I resign myself to the life of the heavy boozer?. No, definitely not.

Let’s reframe the end of the road as a bump in the road. Yes I messed up, yes I drank too much but no that does not mean I failed. What I learned is that this will be harder than I thought. 25 years of learned drinking behaviour isn’t going to disappear overnight.

My nephews are learning to ride a bike, this involves a lot of crashing, tears and grazed knees. To expect them to get on their bikes and ride off into the sunset first time would be ridiculous . To apply the same logic to ourselves just because we are adults is also crazy. We need to learn from the grazes, we need to learn from the tears. Going straight to the pub after a stressful day with the big boozers  work is the equivalent of cycling straight off the path and into the duck pond. Just because it went wrong doesn’t mean that’s the end. It just means I need to work on my steering or in my case my ability to steer myself out the pub door. The reason the aviation industry has such an impressive safety record is that every time something goes wrong it is investigated extensively . Nothing is swept under the carpet. The approach is what we can learn from this to prevent it happening in the future. It’s never just unlucky, it’s never just a shrug of the shoulder and “things just happen sometimes”. So I need to take the same approach to my own life. Reflect, learn, grow. Potentially the slogan of the local academy school chain, as well as now my own personal slogan.

Stay sober. Control the wine. Save the liver

This blog is a fictionalised account based on the experiences of a number of different Chichester Wellbeing clients that we have worked with in the last year.

It aims to give people an idea of a typical journey for someone reducing their alcohol intake, and the types of benefits they experience.

 

Blog 5 –Mind over Mood….  - Monday 19th October

Reasons for drinking. So I thought I was a social drinker and I am to an extent, but more secretly and unbeknownst to me I’m a mood drinker.

 I’ve been keeping a drinks diary to record when and why I have been drinking. This way I can be really clear about how much I’m consuming, the haze of last week can’t be forgotten, it’s there in black and white. SUNDAY: 9 UNITS, RED WINE. Also, to make a successful plan going forward I need to have an idea of what has been happening in the past. Humans like routine and by knowing mine I can plan to change it or be more aware of the times when I am likely to drink. Anyway, lots of my drinking happens with family and friends but not all of it. Some of it happens on my own for example the tinnies on the train.

Why am I doing this, what is the reason? If I was a method actor I could ask myself what is my motivation in this scene, why does my character feel he needs tinnies on the train? Is it a reward for a hard day’s work? Partly. But the more I think about it, it’s because I want to change my mood, I want to change how I feel. The office can be really stressful. It can be unpredictable, challenging and frustrating and I don’t want to feel those things in my own time, so what to do. Alcohol appears to offer the solution, a portable de-stressor that I can pick up on the walk from the office to the station. Alcohol will relax me and change my mood; it will offer that quick fix. It will also offer long term liver damage, high blood pressure, increased risk of a cardiac event, increased risk of diabetes… a fun list. 

So what I am really searching for is a way of changing my mood from stressed to unstressed. Something that doesn’t require too much effort, as 9 times out of 10 I’m knackered after leaving work. Future Me would like to cycle the first 3 train stops and then get on the train, but that’s unrealistic at the moment. I could download some audio books, they can definitely change my mood or maybe Sudoku. I could try a few different things and see what works best.

 I’ve added a column to my drinks diary titled Mood. What mood was I in when I reached for the bottle? Boredom, hunger (not sure if this is an emotion but it definitely affects my behaviour), stressed, then I can ask is alcohol the only way to solve these problems? I’m beginning to find that the answer to that is no.

Stay sober. Control the wine. Save the liver

This blog is a fictionalised account based on the experiences of a number of different Chichester Wellbeing clients that we have worked with in the last year.

It aims to give people an idea of a typical journey for someone reducing their alcohol intake, and the types of benefits they experience.

 

Blog 4 –Dance like no one is watching… Everyone’s watching, red wine does not have the ability to turn you into a Strictly dancer, well maybe one that gets booted out on week 1 - Wednesday 14th October

Confidence, confidence, confidence: if you say it three times in front of a mirror at midnight will it suddenly appear? Probably not. It’s important to get in the right frame of mind before starting anything challenging. If you don’t think you’re going to succeed to start with how much effort will you be willing to put into it, especially when it starts to get tough? “This is hard” quickly becomes “I was never going to be able to do this anyway” You’ve beaten yourself before you have even started. I hope that, this time, I’m in the right mind-set to really make a change.

A good way of assessing how confident we feel about something is by scaling it. If I said to myself, out of 100 how likely do I think it is that I will be able to achieve my goal of drinking less than 14 units a week. I could say 70, which is pretty confident. I could then ask myself why not 80? Well, I know that I have struggled with behaviour change in the past, I am susceptible to peer pressure and once I get a taste for alcohol I know I am likely to want more. This all seems quite negative. However, I can also ask myself “you scored yourself 70 why not 60?” To which I would reply “I used to smoke in the past but I was able to quit that, so I know I have got the ability to change, I have a supportive family who will help me if I am struggling. I want to fit into my trousers again and I know that every day I don’t fit into them will inspire me to keep going”. By generating this list we can start generating self-efficacy, the belief in our ability to succeed, and this something I will need to hold onto in the coming weeks.

I also need to address the first list that I created, the ‘why not 80 list’? Without really realising it I’ve given myself a list that needs troubleshooting. Peer pressure, a big one for me. I’m known as someone who drinks, someone who has a good time when they drink. I become more sociable, funnier… a better dancer, (hmm maybe I don’t, maybe I just think I do). Because I can also become loud, obnoxious and aggressive if I drink too much, which is often the case if I fail to maintain the delicate tightrope walking act of keeping the right amount drunk, the sweet spot between not sober and not drunk (practically impossible).

Is being a drinker tied into my social identity? It shouldn’t be. So I need to come up with a plan for when I am in these situations. I can explain to my friends what I am trying to achieve and that I would like their support. I can do it before I see them in person or before any alcohol is present, that way they can get used to the idea beforehand so it’s not a shock to them. Some weird aspect of cultural politeness will inevitably see me drinking an unwanted pint because it was bought as part of a round and it would be rude not to. So I need to nip that in the bud before it starts.

White lies might have to play their part as well: for some reason it’s socially acceptable to refuse a drink if you’re on medication but not if you just don’t want to drink. Driving, another good one. “I can’t today, my turn to drive”. I’ll practice saying this a few times as well so that it rolls of the tongue more readily:  “fancy a drink?” “Can’t I’m driving and I’m on this new medication for my halitosis (often caused by excessive drinking).” Maybe I’ll just keep to the first bit!

So it’s good to troubleshoot and plan ahead, addressing potential problems before they arrive on our doorsteps. It’s also really important to build our self-efficacy. Remembering how we will succeed and also the reasons why. Keep that goal in mind. “I want to be fitter and healthier so I have more energy when spending time with my family”.

Stay sober. Control the wine. Save the liver

This blog is a fictionalised account based on the experiences of a number of different Chichester Wellbeing clients that we have worked with in the last year.

It aims to give people an idea of a typical journey for someone reducing their alcohol intake, and the types of benefits they experience.

 

Blog 3 - “A dream is just a dream, a goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline” - Monday 12th October 

Goals

So the long term goal is to drop below 14 units a week and I’m currently sitting on 57 units a week. This seems like a lot, too much, too big a problem… is it a problem? I mean I’m not really hurting anyone, no one knows that I’m drinking too much, it’s normal if anything (I think a lot of my friends drink a comparable amount - do they ?)… Wait I’m already making excuses, I’m already looking for a way out. This can often be the case when we are confronted by large tasks, they seem too huge to handle and enormous in scale in comparison to the tools we have available to us.

 So what I need are some short term goals, something more manageable. 14 units is where I want to be in a months’ time, but where do I want to be by the end of this week? 40 units, why not? Sounds reasonable I mean that’s not that much of a change. I really don’t need to drink on Monday and if the bottle is not open then I won’t be likely to drink on Tuesday. What other day could I knock off? Thursday, I’m just indulging myself, I don’t need to drink whilst I cook. I’m sure I can find a tasty replacement.  So just like that I’ve taken 13 units of my weekly total. Right this is starting to look like a bit of a plan. I think I am going to have to tell my partner what I’m trying to do, I know that I need some accountability otherwise I’ll just make excuses. “I’ll start next week, it’s been a hard day, I deserve this” and before I know it I’ll be back to square one.

SMART goals are really useful when attempting something new, if you’ve not come across them before it’s an acronym that stands for Specific Measureable Achievable Realistic Targeted and I think I have applied all of them to this week’s goals. So fingers crossed, but the proof will be in the pudding or more likely the bottle.

Stay sober. Control the wine. Save the liver

This blog is a fictionalised account based on the experiences of a number of different Chichester Wellbeing clients that we have worked with in the last year.

It aims to give people an idea of a typical journey for someone reducing their alcohol intake, and the types of benefits they experience.

Blog 2 - fail to prepare and prepare to fail - Wednesday 7th October

So what does my plan look like? Where do I start? I could just go for it, jump right in? It might work... but probably not. I know my willpower can let me down; remembering my ill-fated attempt to become a vegetarian, well-meaning and with good intention but essentially futile - succumbing in my second week to a roast dinner. Well I’m not going to go cold turkey because I just don’t think it will work for me. It’s not worked with other things in the past so there’s no reason to think it will work for this. What I am going to do is to plan on a steady reduction over the month until I am at a drinking level that I am happy with.

Well the first thing I should do is look at what I have been doing, as this will give me a good insight into what I am likely to do in the future.

 Ok so let’s look at my week: Monday- funday, start of the week and I’m a bit sad that the weekend’s over.  So, maybe I’ll open a bottle of wine for dinner; I’m sharing it with my partner so 1 glass… ok let’s be honest 2 glasses, but they are small glasses 125ml, a couple of units. 3 units.

 Tuesday: well the bottle’s open from Monday so I’m likely to finish off Monday night’s bottle. My partner’s out so I can’t really even pretend to myself that we shared it. 6 units.

Wednesday Hump day: big work meeting in town, a few tinnies on the train just to help me relax for when I get home, I don’t want to be carrying the work stress into the house with me. The tinnies on the train have given me the taste for it though so maybe I’ll open a red. 12 units.

Thursday: I’m cooking and I like to have a drink when I cook. 5 units.

 Friday: start of the weekend brother and sister in law are over. Gin and tonic, yes please. Beers before dinner, wine during, check. 12 units.

Saturday: can’t drink during the day because I’m driving but I can in the evening, I found some interesting craft beers… with a ridiculous high ABV… 8 units. 

Sunday:  BBQ lunch which means I started drinking early around 3 but spread out into the evening, 5 beers 2 units a can.. another double digit day!!! 10 units

So that’s what my week looked like, adding up the numbers… 57 units. Wow that’s a lot and I only really felt hungover on Thursday and the Saturday morning. I guess that just shows that I have developed a tolerance to the effects of alcohol, not a good sign. The government recommends that we drink no more than 14 units per week and that we spread these out over the week. I have clearly moved far away from this target so plenty for me to work towards. 

Time for me to rewrite my week.

Stay sober. Control the wine. Save the liver

This blog is a fictionalised account based on the experiences of a number of different Chichester Wellbeing clients that we have worked with in the last year.

It aims to give people an idea of a typical journey for someone reducing their alcohol intake, and the types of benefits they experience.

Blog 1 – “You can’t start a fire without a spark” - Monday 5th October

Summer has ended, the kids are back to school and it feels like life is starting to get back to normal. The corona virus has been tough on us all and has forced us to change our lives in incredibly drastic ways. New routines have been made and old habits have been adapted or created to cope with all of the change. That is what I am writing about today, a new habit forged over a summer of madness, hidden in plain sight, created as if out of nowhere, fully formed and looming large. All of a sudden it has become my new “norm”; I am talking about DRINK!

We all have drinking rules whether we are aware of them or not: some of us just drink at weekends, some of us strictly after 6pm or never after nine, some of us start with Corrie and finish with the News at 10. These drinking rules are given to us by our parents, our friends, our families and by and large we stick to them…until we don’t. Until the playbook is thrown out of the window, until our routines and normal lives are suddenly not there anymore. And then the creep begins. In this blog I want to take a look at how the past six months have been and, importantly, what I need to do is to make some changes.

I’m taking some time to reflect on how and why things began to change for me. How did I go from drinking a fairly sensible amount to an amount I feel uncomfortable with?

 March 2020:  “5 o clock beers?”  Why not, I don’t have to be in the office tomorrow.

“Fancy another? “ Why not, I only have a zoom meeting at 10 tomorrow and I can just keep my head down”

 “The kids have been a nightmare today, I deserve this”

 It was all too easy to justify having a drink. Before you know it you’ve gone from drinking 3 nights a week to every night of the week. From the government recommendation of 14 units a week, you’re now drinking 20-25 units a week. What’s happened?, when did this happen? and why don’t my trousers fit me anymore?!!!!

I’m looking in the mirror and not feeling that great about what I see. And, if I’m being honest, I know the reason why. Alcohol has a LOT of calories in it so that might explain the expanding waist line and the rest, well the rest is life happening. This summer has been tough, it’s been hard, unpredictable and relentless. And alcohol helps… until it doesn’t. Until it’s another thing to be worried, anxious and stressed over. Until it’s causing problems rather than solving them. So it’s time to change.

I need to reset, I need to refresh… I need to give the alcohol the boot. I need to be me again. I’m not saying I’m going to become abstinent; I don’t see that as me, I enjoy drinking, I just don’t want to do it all the time. I do see myself as the person before lockdown, the person who knew the rules and could stick to them. I was a weekend social drinker not an everyday drinker. So, for the next month I am going to stop. I’m going to press the reset button and cut out alcohol for the whole month, to purge myself of the habits of the summer, furlough the booze , don’t drink out to help myself out.. hmm maybe that last one doesn’t work that well. Anyway how hard can it be...it could be quite hard, maybe I need a plan, yes a plan.

P.S could this be the tagline for my sober month, again not so sure…

Stay alert: control the wine: save livers

This blog is a fictionalised account based on the experiences of a number of different Chichester Wellbeing clients that we have worked with in the last year.

It aims to give people an idea of a typical journey for someone reducing their alcohol intake, and the types of benefits they experience.

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